Like most people* in the UK who passed their test before 1st January 1997, my driving licence has what is known as ‘Grandfather Rights’ (or more flatteringly ‘Acquired Rights’) which allow me to tow vehicles up to 8.5t.
But just because you can tow something legally, it doesn’t mean that you should.
Our caravan and van have a total train length of about 40-feet. I left the towing to Mark at first. Although we were completely new to caravanning, Mark holds an LGV1 licence, so he can legally drive an articulated lorry. I have never towed anything before, never mind taken charge of something the length of an HGV.
However, I felt that it was important for me to learn to tow the caravan for a number of reasons; if we did long journeys, it would be safer to share the driving and if something did happen – like Mark was suddenly taken ill or even just twisted his ankle – I would be able to take over at the wheel. (This DID happen – had I been unable to tow, we would have been stuck in Budapest for weeks when Mark broke his ribs.)
You can book yourself on a short try-out session – there are free towing and manoeuvring experiences at many of the Caravan, Camping and Motorhome Shows. While this is a useful taster, it is not enough in itself.
The Caravan and Motorhome Club run a 2-day Practical Caravanning Course several times a year, so I signed myself up. The course covered manoeuvring as well as many other subjects that have proved invaluable. It gave us a boost of knowledge just when we needed it – at the start of our caravanning career.
There is also a good chance that completing a towing course will result in a reduction in your caravan insurance. Insurers look kindly on well-trained drivers for one reason only – you are less of a risk; to yourself and other road users and are less likely to damage those expensive assets – your beloved caravan and tow car.
It’s your life; your van; you decide if you think it’s worth it.
You can read about how “The Woman at the Wheel” got on in her Towing Course here!
It is also important to ‘match’ your caravan and tow car to ensure that you have a safe and legal combination in terms of weights and pulling power. The Caravan & Motorhome Club and the Camping & Caravan Club both offer a free matching service to members while Towsafe offers the service for a small fee.
Caravan and Motorhome Club Advice for Beginners – Driving Licences for Towing
Caravan and Motorhome Club – Caravan Towing Courses
*I have heard rumours that DVLA sometimes removes categories from driving licences which are sent back to make changes, such as updating an address. It is best to check your licence to make sure that it does display all the correct categories required to tow your vehicle. Click here to follow a link to the discussion.